Literature: The Grimnoir Chronicles
"We now have over a thousand confirmed cases of individuals with these so-called magical abilities
on the continent alone. The faculty has descended into a terrible uproar over the proper nomenclature for such specimens. All manner of Latin phrases
have been bandied about. Professor Gerard even suggested Grimnoir, a combination of the old French Grimoire, or book of spells, with Noir, for Black, in the sense of the mysterious, for at this juncture the origin of said Powers remains unknown. He was laughed down. Personally, I’ve taken to calling them wizards, for the very idea of there being actual magic beyond the bounds of science causes my esteemed colleagues to sputter and choke
Dr. L. Fulci, Professor of Natural Science, University of Bern, Personal Journal 1852
Jake Sullivan is a war hero, a private eye—and an ex-con. He’s free because he has a magical talent, being able to alter the force of gravity in himself and objects in his vicinity, and the Bureau of Investigation calls on him when they need his help in apprehending criminals with their own magical talents. But the last operation he was sent along to help with went completely wrong, and Delilah Jones, the woman the G-men were after, who just happened to be an old friend of Jake’s in happier times, had a lot of magical muscle with her, too much muscle for the cops to handle, even with Jake’s help.It got worse. Jake found out that not only have the Feds been lying to him, but there was a secret war being waged by opposing forces of magic-users. Worst of all, he had attracted the attention of one side's ruthless leaders-who were of the opinion that Jake was far too dangerous to be permitted to live...The Grimnoir Chronicles
"The learned gentlemen from the university have asked me if I relied on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity or if I used the simpler rules of Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation on the evening in question when I accidentally took Sheriff Johnson’s life . Shit. I don’t know. I just got angry and squished the fucker
. But I’ve gotten better at running things and I promise not to do it no more."
Jake Sullivan, Parole Hearing, Rockville State Penitentiary 1928
is an Alternate History
fantasy taking place in the early 1930s
. Sometime in the 1800s magic appeared in the world
, giving a small fraction of the population one of a standard set of super-powers, such as fire
, and teleporting
. Just like his other series
, Larry Correia
provides some of the best action scenes out there, fueled by pure distilled Rule of Cool
. A gravity-controlling private eye teams up with a guy who can walk through walls to fight a bulletproof samurai. A teleporting ninja with a katana goes up against a teleporting Oklahoma girl with a shotgun. Bullets fly, demons are summoned, and stuff blows up
The first in the series is Hard Magic
(released May 3 2011). After Jake Sullivan fails to bring in his former Love Interest
for murder, he makes some inquiries and finds out that things aren't what they seem. He's soon caught up with a secret society
sworn to stop the Japanese Imperium, led by the indestructible Chairman Tokugawa
, from taking over the world. At the same time, an Okie
named Faye witnesses the murder of her adoptive grandfather at the hands of a mysterious one-eyed man. His dying command is for her to protect a strange mechanical device, designed by someone named Tesla
The sequel Spellbound
is out as of November 1 2011. It follows up on some of the sequel bait
from the first book — such as the entity
stated to be pursuing The Power
The third book, Warbound
was released in August 2013.
This work uses the following tropes:
- Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Harkeness...speaks in...THIS manner.
- Affably Evil: The Chairman is really a very pleasant man, when he isn't subjugating whole nations or ripping the soul out of your body.
- Alien Geometries: The Power seems to be made of strange glyphs that are strange but can be grasped by the human mind. The Pathfinder's minions in Warbound are so complex and bizarre that even Fuller has trouble grasping them.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Imperium Shadow Guard destroys 3 of the 4 Grimnoir strongholds in Shanghai before the attack on the false Chairman in Warbound, killing dozens of Knights, including Lance.
- Almighty Janitor/ Badass Bureaucrat: "Anyone ever tell you you're the best accountant ever, Chandler?"
- Alternate History: Aside from the major change of people starting to gain magical abilities in the mid-19th century some more traditional changes are Teddy Roosevelt pursuing a military career rather than a political one and becoming a general who dies in The Great War, Hitler being executed in 1929, the Great Dust Bowl getting an early start due to a misaimed government attempt at weather manipulation in 1929 (in OTL it didn't get really bad until 1933) and the Titanic being saved by an Active.
- An Ice Person: Iceboxes
- And I Must Scream: Zombies are in this situation, since when they're brought back to life their injuries keep on hurting.
- Animal Eye Spy: Beasties, such as Lance Talon.
- Anti-Hero: Harkeness turns out to be a Grimnoir knight, who killed Pershing as part of a longer plan to defeat the Chairman. When Browning finds out, he still kills him for it.
- Action Girl: Both Faye and Delilah.
- And in the second book, Hammer. And Whisper, who throws a gods's fire back at it.
- All Your Powers Combined: It's subtly hinted at at the end of Spellbound, and outright stated by Fuller in Warbound: Faye isn't a Traveler. She's actually a Cog, whose power manifests in her understanding and being able to use all the powers. She's not just a telporting agent of chaos, she's a telporting agent of chaos who can heal the injured, read your mind, and unleash black holes
- Analogy Backfire: When one of the Grimnoir elders skeptically refers to the Pathfinder as Sullivan's "white whale," Sullivan points out that the whale was real.
- Ascended Extra: Lady Origami and Master Saito have very minor parts in Hard Magic but return for a much larger role in the sequels.
- Anti-Magic: The Dymaxion Nullifier is introduced in Spellbound. You can destroy them magically, it's just not a good idea, as it requires spellbinding a Nixie's power...which is unleashing black holes.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Spellbound's finale has a skyscraper-sized Demon, the most powerful in existence attacking Washington, DC due to Crow's Deal with the Devil.
- Babies Ever After: Sullivan marries Lady Origami and fathers a son at the end of the third book.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Sullivan and Toru at the end of Warbound.
- Bad Ass: Just about everyone involved.
- Badass Adorable: Faye is so cute that Browning jokes it must be the result of a spell, and so powerful that she can destroy an entire battleship single-handedly in less than five minutes.
- Badass Boast:
- Toru and Sullivan exchange them on their first meeting in Spellbound:
Know that you face Iron Guard Toru, one of the thousand sons of Okubo Tokugawa
Sullivan: That's gonna be nine hundred and ninety-nine sons if you don't get out of my face.
- From the climax of Warbound:
The Pathfinder: "I am everywhere!"
- Badass Bystander: In the third book, none other than Yip Man himself appears as one of these, taking on several teleporting, magic-wielding ninjas bare handed.
- Bad Powers, Good People: One of the Grimnoir is a Lazarus, an Active who can bring back the dead and are universally despised.
- Batman Gambit: Harkeness is running one against the Chairman.
- Battle Couple: Jake & Delilah. Faye and Francis, briefly.
- Berserk Button: Faye's dangerously unstable most of the time, but if Francis is threatened, she's downright terrifying.
- She also reacts badly to pretty much anything involving her grandpa's death.
- Trying to harm Jane will result in Dan ordering you to blow your own brains out, and you will consider it an excellent idea.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Faye very calmly vows to kill both Madi and the Chairman himself. She manages half of that, facilitates the other half and makes up the difference in mooks and property damage.
- Jake notes that she's really the nicest person in the world most of the time, until you cross her invisible line, whereupon she just kills you without a second thought.
- Dan's a nice guy; in fact, his power revolves around being pleasant and ingratiating with people. Unless he gets really mad, whereupon he speaks with the voice of a god and can cause all but the most strong-willed individuals to instantly commit suicide.
- Beware the Superman: Part of the Imperium's plan for taking over the world is to sow distrust of Actives in the United States, by framing them for a Peace Ray attack.
- BFG: Jake carries two different ones at various points of the book. During an Imperium assault on a Grimnoir safehouse, Heinrich and Francis break out a Browning M2 heavy machine gun, a weapon so large that Faye mistakes it for some piece of farm machinery.
- In Warbound, an Imperium super-bazooka that's basically a launcher for Boomer power appears, and it obliterates the top half on an apartment building in one shot
- Big Bad: The Chairman.
- Bigger Bad: The Great Enemy
- The Big Damn Kiss: Faye and Francis share one of these when they're reunited in the third book. They have maybe fifteen minutes before the world is destroyed, but she figures they can spare a few seconds.
- Bi the Way: Whisper. She mentions to Faye that she's distracted the gas station attendants (all male) from getting too suspicious by flirting with them. Faye asks what she's going to do if they encounter a female attendant. Whisper replies that she can flirt with girls too. Faye is confused and assumes it's just French people being weird.
- Boxed Crook: Jake is a fairly free-range one at the beginning of the book.
- Bullying a Dragon: One of the Grimnoir knights is rude to Faye. Browning reminds him that this is the girl who killed several hundred Imperium troops, fought the Chairman, and teleported an airship across the Pacific. The other knight quietly apologizes.
- A lot of the prisoners in Rockville Penitentiary liked to pick on Jake in an attempt to make a name for themselves. They all ended up leaving in bags.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A common trait of Cogs. Buckminster Fuller is a prominent example: he's staggeringly brilliant and has a habit of making up words and expecting everyone to understand them.
- Came Back Wrong: Lazaruses can bring people back from death, but most resurrectees go insane and become shambling monsters due to having to constantly experience the pain of their fatal injuries. Only a handful of strong-willed people such as Heinrich's Father and Delilah can remain functional for a long period of time.
- Cosmic Entity: The Power itself turns out to be some kind of massive space... thing, which is in a symbiotic relationship with the people of Earth. It's on the run from a mysterious Enemy; can you say 'Sequel Hook?'
- Chekhov's Gun: Early on, it's said that the Chairman could only be killed by a direct hit from a Peace Ray/Geo-Tel. Guess how he dies at the end.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Faye is not like you.
- Combat Pragmatist: Pretty much everyone, but Heinrich most of all.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant
- Crapsaccharine World: Shanghai is a pretty nice place, with modern buildings, most of the war destruction patched up and everything you could ever imagine for sale. Give any reason to doubt your undying loyalty to the Imperium conquerors, however....
- Cute and Psycho: Faye is an adorable farm girl who will also kill anyone she thinks is a bad person without hesitation (sometimes with unfortunate results).
- Cute Bruiser: Delilah.
- Dark Action Girl: Toshiko.
- Deal with the Devil: Crow invokes this near the end of Spellbound. The demon just eliminates him as soon as it has what it wants.
- Decoy Damsel: Interesting variation in Spellbound: the attack is real, but Hammer deliberately provoked it and could have easily handled it herself. She just wanted to test Jake.
- Defector from Decadence: Toru.
- Diesel Punk/Fantastic Noir
- Demonic Possession: Inverted; Crow is a Summoner who can possess the demons he summons. He prefers these bodies over his real one, but using a powerful enough demon causes its personality to influence his own, which makes him somewhat Ax-Crazy while in such a body.
- Designated Girl Fight: Faye vs. Toshiko. Despite this, it's an awesome fight scene featuring frenetic Teleport Spam on a flaming zeppelin in the middle of a pirate attack on said zeppelin. Did I mention Toshiko is a Ninja?
- Differently Powered Individual: in-universe, supers are variously referred to as Actives, Magicals and more.
- Distressed Damsel: Jane is kidnapped by the Imperium in the middle of the book.
- Damsel out of Distress: and at the climax she grabs a gun and starts shooting the Chairman's men, and even the Chairman himself. He admits he's impressed.
- Don't Be Ridiculous: One of the opening chapter quotes features one scientist gleefully mocking his colleague's theory that magic comes from the lost city of Atlantis. He concludes by smugly assuring him that magic comes from crystals.
- Dumb Muscle: The stereotype of Heavies is this.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Dear God, Lance!
- Eldritch Abomination: The Enemy is a Planet Eater that chases the Power to feed on the worlds it's touched. Even pieces of this entity are almost as powerful as Chairman Tokugawa, and the Enemy itself is so horrible that a Fortune Teller capable of perceiving it bleeds when he tries to get a good "look" at it.
- Elite Mooks: The Iron Guard and Shadow Guard are superpowered, very highly trained and magically enhanced to boot.
- The Empire: The Imperium, natch.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: Each chapter is opened with some historical quote, throwing out hints about the Alternate History, such as Hitler being executed before rising to power, Theodore Roosevelt dying in World War One against the Kaiser's zombies, etc.
- Enemy Mine: Toru joins forces with the Grimnoir to track down the Pathfinder.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant is a thoroughly selfish bastard, but he does love his grandson.
- Harkeness cares for his granddaughter Jane and is very proud of the fact that she was able to counteract his curse for years.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Madi is actually quite squeamish about Unit 731.
- Evil Counterpart: see Evil Twin. Same applies to Faye and Toshiko.
- Evil Twin: Not a twin per se, but Jake and his brother (Madi) look similar enough that Faye shoots him on sight.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Madi does this to himself near the end of Hard Magic when he notices that Jake has brought Dan along. He remembers the dumpy little guy from the mansion, but can't quite remember what his power is...then he remembers, just as Dan commands Madi's troops to commit suicide.
- Explosive Overclocking: When Lance is fatally wounded a Shadow Guard strike force in Warbound, he draws upon a lethal amount of his possession magic to take over the body of a Shadow Guard, deciding that he has nothing to lose.
- Fair Cop: Hammer.
- False Flag Operation: In the second book President-elect Roosevelt is attacked by an Active assassin sent by the OSI so that they can manipulate public opinion and use that to pass various laws controlling Actives and place them under their authority.
- Fantastic Racism: Many people hate and fear Actives and even among Actives some types like Fades, Lazaruses and Mouths are disliked and distrusted.
- Farmer's Granddaughter: Faye.
- Fate Worse Than Death: The "angels" and "demons" that are summoned by the Power are actually the remnants of the souls of the destroyed planets and/or dimensions that the Power has previously inhabited that have been destroyed by the enemy.
- Fiction 500: Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant is the richest man in the world, and owner of United Blimp & Freight. Francis is his grandson, and ends up inheriting the company.
- Fights Like a Normal: Despite their oft-incredible powers, most of the characters default to firearms in battle, and everyone has guns for backup.
- Some characters, like Hammer or Lance, have powers that are more or less useless in battle, but are nevertheless talented and dangerous fighters.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Faye starts the first book as a poor Okie girl with a power that's likely to get her killed trying to use it. By the end of the third, she's fought and injured the Chairman and survived that, teleported an entire airship thousands of miles, killed the uber-Summoned, and manages to kill a zeppelin battleship by herself.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Much of the current technology is produced or at least initially developed by Cogs, whose Power is a supernatural aptitude for a particular branch of science.
- Genius Bruiser: Jake. Exceptionally well-read, brilliant enough to figure out what the Power really is, and a giant hulk of a man.
- Invoked by Walter Donovan in one of the chapter quotes: "the ideal OCI man is a PHD who could win a bar fight."
- Good Is Not Nice: Ian Wright is an arrogant, argumentative jerk, but he's a loyal knight and can be incredibly brave in a pinch.
- Gravity Master: Sullivan and his brother Madi can control gravity. Most Heavies can only lighten objects that they try to carry, but Sullivan practiced with his Power enough that he can change the direction of gravity, amplify it, etc.
- Gray Eyes: A trait shared by all Travelers,
- Gun Porn: Toned down from the Monster Hunter International series, since they have magic to fight with too this time, but that doesn't keep John Moses Browning from giving Sullivan a tour of his workshop.
- Handicapped Badass: Madi only has one eye. Lance has a very pronounced limp.
- Happily Adopted: Faye...until her adopted parent is killed by Imperium agents.
- Healing Hands: Healers such as Jane are in high demand, and a standard part of any rich person's retinue.
- Healing Factor: Passive Healers. Also, anyone with one or more kanji of healing.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: Lance's power is mostly strictly limited to recon unless there are large predators handy, but he can be pretty creative with it, as when he stops a car chase by making a cow run in front of the other car. And wink.
- Heavies are generally considered among the most useless Actives out there, since all most of them can do is make heavy things a little lighter. Jake has practiced and studied enough that he's one of the most powerful characters in the series.
- Heavyworlder: Apparently, all Spikers/Heavies are huge, stocky types.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Near the beginning of Book Two, the Grimnoir are framed for an assassination attempt on FDR, and spend the rest of the book dealing with the fallout.
- Heroic Sacrifice: George Bolander and Whisper both do this in Spellbound, the former so spectacularly that he becomes a folk hero.
- Historical-Domain Character: John J. "Black Jack" Pershing and John Moses Browning are both Grimnoir knights, and Sullivan has some unpleasant dealings with J. Edgar Hoover.
- In the second book, Buckminister Fuller makes a brief but significant appearance (he has a larger role in the third book). A United States Navy "Lieutenant Heinlein" makes a briefer, much less significant appearance.
- In the third book, it's revealed that Winston Churchill and William Donovan are Grimnoir elders.
- Also in the third book, turns out that Rasputin was one of the Chairman's students.
- In the second and third books, Francis's right-hand man is Raymond Chandler.
- Warbound features a very brief cameo by Yip Man, who's a member of the Shanghai Grimnoir.
- Historical Person Punchline: The UBF accountant (who helped in the climactic battle, explaining that he fought with the Gordon Highlanders in World War One), turns out to be Raymond Chandler.
- Hilariously subverted with Rasputin. Most readers have probably guessed his identity long before he reveals it, and he expects Faye to have do so as well. He's therefore rather disappointed to find she's never heard of him.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: In Real Life, Imperial Japan was racist, militaristic, and expansionist, with an array of atrocities to its name. The Imperium is all of that, turned Up to Eleven, and more succesful.
- Honest Corporate Executive / Benevolent Boss: Francis, after he inherits UBF.
- Hope Spot: Just after defeating the Bull King, Delilah gets run through by a ninja.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Faye kills Rasputin by Traveling him into the path of his own spell.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The massive Jake and the petite Delilah.
- Non-romantic example in the two protagonists: enormous Jake and tiny Faye.
- Humans Are Special: it turns out that humans are the first rational, creative beings the Power has found, which is what makes it think it can defeat the Enemy at last.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Faye isn't really a Traveler. She's a Cog whose specialty is understanding magic so well that she can use any power.
- I Am Not Pretty: Faye thinks of herself as quite plain. Most people who meet her seem to disagree.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Charmingly, neither Faye nor Francis can quite figure out what the other sees in them.
- Insistent Terminology: Sullivan really prefers the term 'Gravity Spiker.'
- Insult to Rocks: After Faye calls Toshiko a fat cow, she mentally notes that that's not really fair, since cows are nice.
- Intangible Man: Heinrich, one of the Grimnoir knights, is a Fade, who can walk through walls and let weapons pass right through him.
- If He Ever Does Anything to Hurt You: Lance cautions Faye to be careful, because he really doesn't want to have to break Francis's neck for dishonoring her.
- In the final book, Captain Southunder warns Sullivan that if he doesn't make Akane happy, he'll find himself having a lethal 'accident.'
- Inter-Class Romance: Faye and Francis
- Interservice Rivalry: The Iron Guard and Shadow Guard (or at least Madi and Toshiko) do not have a high opinion of each other. The FBI and OCI conflict plays a significant role in the second book.
- It Has Been an Honor: Sullivan and Toru share a moment of this when surrounded by Imperium troops at the end of Warbound.
- It's Raining Men: In Warbound, Sullivan decides to interrupt the false Chairman's Shanghai visit. How? By donning a suit of Powered Armor and dropping in. From seventy-five thousand feet up.
- Jerk Ass: Cornelius. Gould. Stuyvesant.
- Just the First Citizen: In the epilogue of book three, Toru becomes the new Chairman. Well, he claims that he's just another one of the Emperor's ministers, but Sullivan doesn't doubt that Toru has managed to acquire the power of that position even if he hasn't gotten the official job title.
- Kingpin in His Gym: Just before the climactic battle of Hard Magic, there's a scene of Madi sparring with several dozen Imperial Marines at once.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: The real name of Lady Origami (Also known as Ori for short) is Akane. This doesn't get revealed until late in the third book.
- Ladykiller in Love: Francis had "been around a few blocks" before falling in love with Faye.
"Francis had loved a lot of women. He only cared about one."
- Let's Get Dangerous: Lance is a Beastie, who can control animals, and generally uses squirrels, birds, and dogs for recon. And then the final battle in Spellbound he decides to borrows a Siberian Tiger from the National Zoo. In Warbound he uses a Polar Bear. And in his final battle he takes over an Imperium Shadow Guard and has him murder all his comrades before committing suicide.
- Living Lie Detector: Justices, such as Hammer.
- Living on Borrowed Time / The Last Dance: Shortly after Delilah is killed, she is accidentally revived as a zombie by an Imperium necromancer. Rather than being immediately put down, she decides to go out fighting.
- Little Miss Badass: Faye, who may or may not be 18 yet and is pretty small. She irritates everyone trying to fight her by not being where they think she is and, in the final battle, kills around a hundred Imperium marines and wounds the Chairman. In Spellbound, the evil OCI chief is scared by Sullivan and a Lance-controlled Siberian Tiger. He's utterly terrified of Faye.
- In Warbound she kills an Imperium Kaga-class zeppelin by herself. As in, she solos the largest, most powerful warship on the planet. In under four minutes.
- It's eventually revealed that she can use any power she wants.
- Made of Iron: Madi and Rokusaburo in particular, Brutes, Massives and people with kanji of durability in general.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Turns out there are very structured cosmological underpinnings to the seemingly-random magical gifts.
- Meta Origin: All magic powers (be they innate or the kanji brands) come from The Power.
- Mighty Whitey: Madi is a villainous example leavened only by the fact that there are other Caucasians in the Iron Guard, none of whom are on his level or that of the Japanese members.
- Mini Map: Faye has a "head map" that shows her all people and obstacles around her. It lets her teleport safely without ending up in a wall, makes her impossible to sneak up on, and she can punch the map through a communication spell to travel long distances.
- Mind Control: Beasties such as Lance can control animals and see through their eyes for reconnaissance. Mouths like Dan can control people to a limited extent, but can't make them do anything they wouldn't consider anyway.
- Mind over Matter: Francis comes from a long line of Movers.
- Mirror Match: Twice, Sullivan has to go head-to-head with his brother, pitting gravity powers against gravity powers. See also Faye vs. Toshiko
- Mundane Fantastic: Active are a known entity and many types like Heavies, Cracklers, Iceboxes and Movers are commonly employed while the rarer types like Healers and Cogs are highly sought after.
- Mundane Utility: Donald Bryce is a Lazarus who works for the Grimnoir. He used to be an NYPD homicide detective known for always closing his cases.
- Near Death Experience: Both Jake and Faye. When caught up in it, they can see the two most powerful beings on Earth: The Power itself, and the Chairman.
- Necromancer: In-setting, an Active (such as Hiroyasu) that can raise and command zombies is called a "Lazarus." They are the most universally hated groups of Actives, even by other Actives, due to their power.
- Negative Space Wedgie: Nixies can create black holes, which fortunately never grow more than a mile or so across except for the giant one that Faye creates to swallow the Enemy at the end of Warbound.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the first book Faye almost kills Sullivan after mistaking him for Madi, his older brother.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: The Chairman's philosophy has elements of this; Madi takes those elements and runs with 'em as far as they can go.
- Ninja: The Shadow Guard. Membership is restricted to highly trained Fades and Travelers.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Ninjas, pirates, and zombies all come together for the big climactic fight scene of Hard Magic.
- Then, of course, robots show up in the sequel Spellbound.
- Noble Bigot: Travelin' Joe hates the Okies that pass by his farm, but not so much that he doesn't adopt one to keep her from killing herself with her power.
- Not Quite Saved Enough: The Chairman killed two Pathfinders of The Enemy, but a third is on the way and he isn't around to stop it this time. He actually only killed one. The third Pathfinder is actually the second, which escaped him and has been subverting influential Actives around the world for half a century, and is now ready to call its master.
- Odd Friendship: Smooth, friendly Mouth Dan and taciturn, paranoid Fade Heinrich.
- Oddly Common Rarity: The first book mentions multiple times that Healers in particular are the rarest of the rare among the rare individuals at are Active... and yet it also mentions multiple forms of Actives who are so rare that they're barely known. People with enough money can find multiple Healers to have on-call, but no one can find a Nixie to ask what he does, despite the name being known. The second book doesn't have anyone talk about how rare Healers are, probably because the heroes keep finding Actives they didn't know of in the first book.
- Oh, Crap: In Spellbound, OCI thug Sharps has this reaction when he realizes that Heinreich, whom he had just been working over, has gotten his magic back.
- One Person, One Power: an in-setting rule of thumb to which Chairman Okubo Tokugawa is the sole exception as far as anyone knows, though people who are very skilled with their one power can often emulate a related one. For example, Sullivan can use fine gravity control as a makeshift telekinetic ability. In the third book, Faye is revealed to be a Cog who can use any power she wants.
- Out-of-Character Alert: Toru tests the Chairman by asking him to interpret one of his poems. The Chairman answers with a perfectly acceptable interpretation. But the real Chairman would never have lowered himself to interpreting one of his poems.
- Pet the Dog: In a very human and even kind moment, the Chairman consoles Sullivan over Delilah's death and helps him come to terms with it; Sullivan even sincerely thanks him for it. . . right before saying that he still plans on killing him regardless.
- Playing with Fire: Torches. Most Torches are actually employed to put out fires, especially on zeppelins.
- Playing with Syringes: Frequent mention is made of the horrific medical experiments carried out by Unit 731.
- Pocket Protector: In their Teleport Spam duel, Toshiko believes she has the upper hand when she slices into what she thinks is Faye's spine. That is until Faye reveals that what was actually hit was the cheap pistol she had purchased earlier. Toshiko does not take this revelation well.
- Poisonous Person: Harkeness is a Pale Horse, an Active so rare they border on mythological status. He can control his power at will, but that doesn't make Stuyvesant any less wary of him.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Despite being set in the 1930s, by far the most explicitly racist (American) character is Crow.
- Portal Cut: How Faye cuts the Chairman's hands off.
- Power Armor: The Imperium developed some for the Iron Guard, which were restricted to the elites because of the difficulty of manufacture. Fuller makes a set for Sullivan in the third book.
- Power Strain Blackout: Using too much power at once can put an Active into a coma, or even kill them.
- Power Tattoo: The kanji used by the Imperium to enhance their operatives. They are technically brands though as opposed to actual
- Really 700 Years Old: The Chairman is the very first Active, and is thus considerably older than he looks. Other members of the Dark Ocean were given dramatically reduced aging by him, but were not immortal.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Francis delivers one of these to Franklin Roosevelt. Needless to say, it comes back to bite him.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Literally, by implication: it's noted that only truly incompetent Imperium officers get assigned to the Pathfinder monitoring stations built near the poles.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Francis purposefully cultivates this image.
- Rule of Cool
- Sadistic Choice: Presented by an accident rather than malice. When Faye shoots Jake, and Heinrich shoots her, Jane only has enough healing power to save one of them.
- Seen It All: Due to his advanced age & extensive travels, the Chairman suffers from a mild case of this.
- Sequel Hook: The glossary references to Active types that didn't otherwise appear in Hard Magic. Boomers (who are kept locked in lead-lined chambers, hint-hint), Nixies and Justices for example.
- All three of which show up in Spellbound.
- School of Seduction: Part of Toshiko's training as a ninja, as observed by Madi. Later, he totally hits that.
- Sequel Hook: The ending has Toru and Sullivan on a beach, with the latter stating that, while the Imperium has shut down its schools and Unit 731, war may resume one day with America or the Grimnoir. He also speculates that the Enemy may one day find a way to escape and have to be dealt with for good. On a positive note, Faye has become an inventor that's changing the world with her inventions and her next project might involve the fact that she misses Travelling...
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Buckminster Fuller. This is apparently a trait he possessed in Real Life.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Faye turnes out to look really good in a nice dress.
- Shock and Awe: Cracklers, although they prefer to be called "Edisons."
- Shout-Out: When Sullivan stops to ask directions from an Imperium soldier: "English! Do you speak it?"
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Crow tries to convince Faye to come with him quietly, offering to spare her friends and explain the true nature of her power to her. Her response:
Faye: "You should have thought of that before you beat up my boyfriend."
- In the same book, Dr. Bradford outlines his grand vision to Francis to try to get him on board with it. Francis responds with "Fuck your vision!"
- Sinister Minister: Rasputin the Black Monk is posing as a Russian holy man in Warbound. Faye is quite offended that a man who wants to help the Pathfinder kill all of God's creatures is posing as a man of Christ.
- Sky Pirate: The last piece of the Geo-Tel is protected by Southunder, who preys on Imperium ships in the Pacific ocean from his zeppelin.
- The Spartan Way: The Imperium's infamous magic schools take anyone with a drop of power away from their families to be pushed as hard as they can. Thousands have died from being considered too weak or being pushed too far.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Faye, being a Traveler, does this all the time.
- Super Fun Happy Thing of Doom: Tesla's "Peace Ray."
- Super Strength: Delilah, enough said.
- In the second and third book, Toru.
- Swarm of Rats: Lance unleashes one of these in Warbound
"So much blood!"
- Technician Versus Performer: Zig-zagged; while Faye's natural talent lets her run circles around the well-trained Toshiko, Jake's greater power does not generally keep him from getting smacked around by the more skillful Madi.
- Teleport Spam: Any fight involving a Traveler such as Faye, Toshiko, Travelin' Joe, etc.
- Teleporter Accident: One of the reasons Travelers are so rare: most kill themselves early on by teleporting into flying insects or tree-branches.
- Faye gets a beetle stuck in her foot early in Hard Magic.
- The Dragon / The Heavy: Madi, to the Chairman.
- In the second book, Crow to Bradford.
- Time Abyss: In Warbound, an oracle states that the Power has been on the run from the enemy for at least 1 million years.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Dan and Jane.
- Token Evil Teammate: Sociopathic psychologist Dr. Wells in the third book. In the end it's revealed that he's taken control of the Shanghai underworld.
- Arguably Mr. Bryce the Lazarus, who seems to enjoy turning dead criminals into zombies and beating on them a little too much.
- Training from Hell: Madi has this in his backstory. Presumably, the other Iron Guards did as well.
- Tranquil Fury: Jao the Icebox in Warbound. When he meets the man who murdered his family, he very calmly lists the man's crimes while freezing him solid.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Plain, overweight Dan and movie-star gorgeous Jane. It helps that, as a Healer, she sees people's insides rather than their outsides.
Jane: "Oh, Dan! I love you just the way you are: squishy and filled with juice."
- Un Equal Rites: There are two forms of magic in this world: the innate magic that people are born with, and magic that comes through drawn symbols (kanji). As it turns out, they have the same ultimate source.
- The Unfunny: Toru. He has a sense of humor; he just considers it beneath his dignity to let it show. Doesn't stop him from being frequently hilarious.
Toru: "I am wet."
- Victory Is Boring: The reason the Chairman doesn't just wipe out the Grimnoir? Because they're interesting, and being immortal can get very dull sometimes.
- Walking the Earth: The Chairman's backstory includes a long period of doing this.
- Wave Motion Gun: Peace Rays. One shot, at seven percent power, is sufficient to wipe the city of Mar Pacifica off the map. The Geo-Tel is even more powerful, able to destroy everything for hundreds of miles around; the Tunguska Event was a test fire.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the assault on OCI headquarters, Lance manages to hijack a Siberian tiger. Then everything goes to hell, almost literally. What happened to the tiger is never explained.
- What Beautiful Eyes: When Francis first meets Faye, he doesn't find her that attractive…except for her striking gray eyes. They're easily her most commented on feature.
- We Can Rule Together: The Chairman speculates about making the offer to Jake. Jake's answer?
- Wicked Cultured: The Chairman. Madi tries to emulate his mentor in this, but fails miserably.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Crow's summoning magic has been augmented to the point that he can possess the bodies of the creatures he summons. The drawback is that this has a negative effect on his mental stability, especially when he uses a powerful demon.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Chairman just wants humanity to be strong so we'll be able to fight The Enemy when it arrives. Harkeness curses the General in order to set up a Batman Gambit against the Chairman
- Worthy Opponent: The Chairman views Sullivan as this. The feeling isn't entirely mutual.
- Toru comes to think of Sullivan as this over the course of the second and third books. This time, the feeling's mutual.
- Wretched Hive: In Warbound, Sullivan muses to himself that, if God doesn't destroy Shanghai, then he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.
- Yellow Peril: Averted. Despite the Imperium (which consists of Japan and its conquered territories of China and Korea) being the initial antagonists of the series, it's made clear that this is due to the Chairman and his followers, not the people in general. When Sullivan meets Lady Origami, a kind Japanese woman working as a crewman on a Grim Noir pirate zeppelin, the captain points out that Japan only became the fascist hellhole that it is by killing or exiling people like her. It's also shown in Spellbound that the United States could be just one corrupt and powerful senator away from becoming another Imperium.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Trying to draw the Enemy causes an oracle to start writing so hard that his own blood mixes with the ink and he claims the only a blood-ink mixture can begin to illustrate its horror.
- You Fight Like a Cow: Faye (who grew up on a dairy farm) spends much of her fight with Toshiko tossing insults at the ninja.
- You Killed My Adoptive Grandfather: Why Faye joins the Grimnoir.
- Zeppelins from Another World: Kind of. Zeppelins play a large role in the story, but it takes place during a time when they really were used in Real Life, though not to the extent they are in the story. It's also justified, as Cracklers and Torches manage to alleviate many of the dangers of the technology.
- Zombie Apocalypse: The second Pathfinder attacked the Chariman and the Dark Ocean with wave after wave of skinless undead bodies that it had taken control of. The third Pathfinder spreads them around, preparting to feast on all Active living zones at once.
- On a smaller scale, the fate of Berlin after the Great War.